RPW Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – The recent announcement that Matt Sheppard will be a regular competitor at the Orange County Fair Speedway in 2020 has created a real buzz around the OCFS world.
Both OCFS management and fans are looking forward to seeing what Sheppard’s presence will bring to the speedway this season.
“Middletown has had a legacy of big-name drivers from Frankie Schneider to Buzzie Reutimann to Brett Hearn,” said Doug Dulgarian, OCFS’s General Manager. “Matt is just going to continue that. It should be interesting if a rivalry develops between him and one or two other drivers.”
“With the new surface and new handicap system, he is a very welcome addition to our regular roster. There seems to be a lot of excitement for the 2020 season coming from fans, racers and from the management. We are all looking forward to it.”
Judging from the posts on social media, many fans are looking forward to seeing Sheppard race at OCFS this season. Whether he wins or not, there is excitement in the air with the arrival of Super Matt.
“OCFS has always had a great field of Modifieds,” stated Mike Otis of Kingston, NY. Otis is a 35+ year weekly fan of OCFS. “It will be great to add a driver of Sheppard’s accomplishments. I would like to see if a rivalry can develop similar to the epic Brett Hearn/Danny Johnson races of the 90’s. It will be interesting to see how he does on a weekly basis against the established regulars. I think it will be a battle for the championship. The multi groove racing we saw at the end of the season was fantastic.”
Sheppard has long been one of the top drivers here in the northeast. But surprisingly so, he had very little success at Orange County prior to 2019. He had very few good finishes and no wins. But he was able to turn that around in 2019.
He broke through for his first OCFS victory in the 2019 Hard Clay Open where he had a dominating win in the 9S. He didn’t race again at OCFS until the Centennial Weekend. He won the two preliminary events, the held over Battle of the Midway and the 80 lap prelude to the Centennial. With the domination he showed in those races, many considered Matt to be the favorite to take the 100G 160 lap Centennial. But the early race crash had him playing catch up. He did make it back up to 3rd.
Sheppard had his best ever Eastern States Weekend in 2019 with second place finishes in both the 100 358 Small Block Race and the 200. With two wins, two second place and one third place for his results in the 5 races on the new surface, Matt has shown he can run well at OCFS. How he fares in the shorter 30 laps weekly features will be interesting to see.
Based on his past success, Sheppard has to be considered to be one of the contenders for the Modified Championship. But you can bet that there are many of the OCFS regulars who would like to grab that $25,000 prize as well. No matter how it plays out, having Sheppard as a regular at OCFS will have a lot of eyes tuned into what will be happening at the legendary House of Power this year. It’s shaping up to be a great and interesting 2020 season at OCFS.